Even the gentlest dogs can bite if they are harmed, frightened, or overexcited. No matter the size or breed of the dog, a bite from any animal can cause open wounds on the skin, leading to an increased risk of infection.
Risks of Infection After a Dog Bite
In general, infections occur when bacteria, germs, or other spreadable diseases are able to enter the body, usually by means of an open gash on the skin. According to the Academy of Pediatrics, infection occurs in about 10 to 15 percent of dog bites. Dog bites that go untreated without proper cleaning and medical care are at increased risk of developing infections, which can be passed to another through bacteria.
How can you tell if a dog bite gets infected?
Below, we break down some of the signs of a serious issue by specific infection. We want to provide you with a quick snippet of some symptoms to look out for if you or a loved one was the target of a dog attack:
- Oozing fluid from the wound
- Loss of sensation in the region of the dog bite
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Night sweats
- Unusual fatigue
- Muscle weakness or tremors
If the victim is experiencing any of the above symptoms after a dog bite, we encourage you to get medical help as soon as possible.
Below, we discuss a few common types of infections that can develop from dog bite injuries.
Rabies is a vaccine-preventable viral infection that is transmitted through a scratch or bite, usually from an infected animal. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus ultimately “spreads to the central nervous system” and leads to “progressive and fatal inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.”
Early symptoms of the disease include mild fevers, headaches, lethargy, and general weakness. As the disease worsens, symptoms will get progressively worse and may include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Partial paralysis
- Hydrophobia (fear of water)
After the dog bite, animal control will most likely monitor the animal for up to 10 days to determine if signs of rabies are present. If signs do exist, you should get tested and vaccinated immediately.
Staph and Strep Infections
Dog bites can lead to staph infections and strep infections; both serious and potentially fatal conditions caused by staphylococcus or streptococcus bacteria. Common symptoms include:
- Oozing blisters
- Joint swelling
If you or a loved one is experiencing such symptoms after a dog bite accident, be sure to seek medical attention immediately. The doctor may have to drain the area around the patient’s bite and treat them with antibiotics in order to halt the infection from further spread.
Pasteurella multocida and pasteurella canis are bacterial organisms that live in the mouths of many dogs. When passed to humans through a bite, they can lead to a serious infection known as cellulitis. Symptoms of this infection typically manifest within the first 24 hours of the bite and include:
- Tenderness around the bite
- Discharge of pus from the wound
Cellulitis spreads fast, especially in children. If left untreated, symptoms can grow worse and lead to:
- Infection in the joints, bones, and tendons
- Numbness or tingling
- Skin appearing black
- Eye infections
- Urinary tract infections
- Blood infections
Typically, treating cases of cellulitis requires a 7 to 10-day treatment period with anti-bacterial medicines, such as amoxicillin and penicillin.
Protecting Victims of Dog Bite Injuries
Even a dog bite that is seemingly “minor” can turn into a severe infection with disastrous consequences. If you’re injured in a dog bite accident, it’s crucial that you seek medical attention right away so you can get a proper diagnosis and treatment. Certain factors may increase the risk of infection, scarring, or other severe conditions, including:
- Not thoroughly washing and cleaning the affected area
- If the bite caused a deep wound
- A weakened immune system
- If the bite caused a fracture or other damage
Self-Treatment Steps to Prevent Infection from a Dog Bite
Medical attention after a dog bite is absolutely critical to prevent infection and any subsequent repercussions from the wound. Once the dog pierces the flesh of the person, bacteria can enter their body thus causing an infection that can result in tetanus, rabies, or sepsis.
There are some treatment steps you can take immediately following a bite to improve the healing process, however:
- Wash the wound with soap and warm water - this can help remove bacteria to prevent infection
- Hold a clean cloth over the wound to slow the flow of blood
- Apply an antibacterial ointment to the wound
- Cover with a sterile bandage
- Keep an eye on the wound for any sign of infection
Some signs of infection include:
- Warm to the touch
All dog bite wounds should be taken seriously because of the potential for a bacterial infection. Make sure you speak with an attorney if you need to pursue compensation for medical expenses.
The state of California follows a strict liability rule when it comes to dog bites, meaning that the owner can almost always be held responsible when their dog bites another person. Whether the dog had a history of violence or was provoked does not matter.
You shouldn’t have to pay for damages caused by a negligent dog owner. For help holding a responsible owner accountable, turn to Fowler Helsel Vogt for seasoned legal counsel. We will work hard to help you pursue the compensation you need to physically and emotionally heal from a dog bite.
Contact our Fresno injury attorneys at (559) 900-1280 to schedule your free consultation.
About the Author
“My calling is to protect and vindicate the rights of the injured." - Attorney John Fowler
Attorney John Fowler is passionate about protecting the rights of those who have been injured by the wrongful acts of another. He is prepared to fight for justice for injured clients, including those bitten by a dog as a result of a negligent pet owner. If you or a loved one has been injured, Attorney John Fowler and his team are ready to utilize their courtroom experience and knowledge to pursue a positive and fair recovery on your behalf.